Propolis is a strange bouquet of resins mixed with honeybee secretions. The “rampart of the hive” is an active protection, constantly renewed and improved. At every second the bees are surveilling the hive for any microbial imbalance, watching for the many microorganisms capable of damaging the colony and foraging plant material that can help immunise the hive against them.
The Origin of Propolis
Etymologically, propolis means “before of the city” and serves to effectively protect the hive. It is an adhesive substance made by the bees from tree resins and vegetable wax found in buds, bark and leaf stalks (poplar trees are a common source), that they then mix with digestive secretions and beeswax.
They blanket the hive with this putty, to keep it healthy and protect it physically against winds and humidity. They also coat their honeycombs with it to sanitize them before use. The bees patch up the hive during the winter as well to reduce openings, and also to repair and rebuild broken parts of the hive. The bodies of invaders too large to drag out (wasps for example) are mummified in a mixture of wax and propolis. More than anything, propolis is a powerful defensive barrier against microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, molds) et their development inside the hive. Propolis protects against parasites like mites. Its ductile qualities shore up the physical security of the hive and render it safe from nefarious environmental influences (waves, telluric currents). This particular property is particularly interesting. .
When bees don’t find their environment to be natural, such as human populated areas, they obviously have need to make more propolis than can be sourced from normal sources. They end up using tars, varnishes, and mineral oils to glue their hives. This “propolis” is clearly harmful to consume. Propolis that comes from hives placed near or in cities must be avoided at all costs. Make sure that the wood for the hives are also untreated, as any fat soluble chemical and its properties can be infused into the propolis
The Composition of Propolis
This resin of varying colors contains an almost uncountable list of ingredients which vary enormously depending on the samples. Despite this, the action of propolis stays consistent. It all comes from things that the bee looks for in its environment to protect its hive. The “pharmacist” bees analyse the insides of the hive. If there is a viral, a fungal, or a bacterial infection that begins to develop and change the balance of the colony, the bees immediately create an antidote: they select the best tree saps available nearby and mix them with their own antiseptic secretions. Us humans, we spend years developing a new medicine. The bees take an hour to make a new propolis. Through propolis, the bees will help us benefit from their very elaborate immune system. This is why it is preferable to consume local propolis, because the microbes it is formed against will be much more likely to be the ones we are trying to combat. It contains an incredible richness of components (over 300 identified), including:
- More than 40 antioxidant flavonoids
- Plant essence
- Organic acids
- Numerous vitamins including A and B groups
- Essential trace metals (Fe, Cu, Mn)
The Origin and Impact of Bee-Sourced Products. You can harvest propolis by scraping the frames or the walls of the hive. The propolis is therefore sometimes filled with impurities. There are also special plastic grills and fabrics that are used for propolis harvesting. These allow for decent collection, but are often filled with waxes. In Gentle Beekeeping, we harvest fresh propolis with the help of an wooden extension that is placed below the hive. This allows for a cleaner propolis with less disturbance for the bees. This way, we are able to consume or conserve it without further manipulation. .
In the Pyrenees : Local, Exceptional Propolis
To make better use of its powerful antibiotic benefits, avoid propolis from far away or varied sources. Select instead a variety of local propolis, extracted using gentle and precise methods :
- White propolis/creamy propolis is the softest. It is perfectly made for the skin, the nose, or sore throats. It is made without alcohol and is good for children or people with sensitivities.
- Yellow propolis has long term activity - it is ideal for general immunity and digestion. It is extracted using clay or oil.
- Black propolis acts quickly. It is to be used in small doses because of its power. It gives quick relief against winter time agitations and skin imperfections. It is extracted with an alcohol (French eau-de-vie). There are also other colours of propolis, the green propolis of Brazil or the red propolis derived from mangrove swamps in tropical countries.
Good to Know
When you choose a propolis product, carefully read the label and note the concentration of propolis in the final product, the geographic origin, and the method of fabrication. In a good propolis, there will be a natural richness of active principles and no reason to add other complicated ingredients. Propolis is enough by itself
Propolis is used to treat malignant tumors, burns, sunburns, herpes outbreaks, chickenpox and shingles, calluses, sores, wounds, gangrene, and necrosis.
It is very efficient for numerous skin problems : itching, eczema, psoriasis, mycosis, redness
As a mouth spray, it works to soothe bronchial, throat and flu issues
It can be used orally to with abscesses, canker sores, and sensitive gums
Propolis and Fungus : Propolis is known for a protective action against fungus and certain bacteria
The work of the Stuyko school in Poland, cited by Rémy Chauvin, has found evidence of its healing quality.
Health fundamentals by the bee, apitherapy and an anesthetic action comparable to xylocaine
These are the different disinfecting, healing, and anti-pain properties of propolis, which are found in the many products derived from it for daily use.